Review: MVNTA at the Empire, Coventry

Mvnta

Mvnta’s Saturday night smasher could only be described as an educational adventure into the world of forefront house and techno. Tom and Nelson, Mvnta’s masterminds, launched their second event at The Empire, Coventry and from a musical perspective, it was the best gig I’ve been to in a long time. Native magazine’s ‘Coventry’s Lost Clubbing Series’ has held a mirror to the City’s house scene and it’s evident we are massively championing efforts from venue owners, promoters and DJs to breathe new life into our clubbing culture. The revival effort from fresh faces such as Mvnta needs to be backed, even if the stakes are high.

Chatting with these young guys in our recent feature built a clear picture of what they were adamant they wanted to achieve. An affordable (only £4 admission) party with a forward-thinking music approach, steering away from the masses and catering for the niche that listen out for new sounds and tracks that grip them to the dancefloor all night. The stripped back décor of The Empire and it’s dark and dingy lighting fitted perfectly with the raw, warehouse vibe they envisioned. The placement of the DJ booth on the dancefloor at the front, closely crowded by the clubbers, created an intimate ‘party’ vibe where everyone felt connected. Screw the current clubbing culture where DJs are perceived as ‘performers’, this was an inclusive party where everyone, including the DJs were totally absorbed into the music and raving as one.

I arrived at midnight in the midst of George Callahan’s (Nghtwrk resident) upbeat techno set but it wasn’t too busy. However, there was an evident dance collective surrounding the DJ and the atmosphere felt charged. I grabbed him for a quick chat alongside Matt Aldrige (Nghtwrk), who later, played the closing set. I wanted to know how George and Matt became involved with Mvnta and it seems after Tom and Nelson were blown away by their impressive sets, they wanted to offer them another platform to showcase their talent. It feels as though Mvnta have taken influence and inspiration from the success of Nghtwrk’s four-year Chester based parties, which are popping up in new locations all the time and attracting one to watch DJ’s including Denis Sulta, nominated this year for Best Newcomer DJ Award. Mvnta want to do what Benito Apollonio did in Chester – take a flailing scene, spot opportunity and grab it by the balls.

I got a real sense of camaraderie amongst the lads – they listen, learn and collaborate over a pure passion for music. Our conversation quickly turned into deciphering the current underground versus overground scene (always a great rant between music lovers) but George and Matt made their stance very clear. These young guys want to deliver fresh upbeat techno and differentiate themselves with careful track selection that pushes the boundaries and steers clear of the current commercial tech house surge. You can tell these guys aren’t trawling the top twenty Beatport records and playing for the masses. They are searching, seeking and hunting out tracks that reflect their identities and I hope they invest in music production to enable them to nail the core of what they feel is their distinctive personal sound.

Coventry born-and-bred Craig and Grant Gordon blew me away with their 12.30-1.30 set of deep, groovy, minimal tech house. These guys are bubbling away on the underground scene with predominantly Midlands bookings expanding across Europe and the impact of their production is already grabbing the attention of iconic International DJs. This year their tracks have been championed by Marco Carola and blasted out in Amnesia, Ibiza, with Steve Lawler, Stacey Pullen and Cuartero (plus many more) also hot on their heels. With past and forthcoming releases on Deeperfect, Sanity and High Pressure Music they are cleverly creeping into Beatport with carefully produced, quality tracks, building recognition and gaining momentum.

Craig and Grant had to shoot straight after their set but kindly ran back in for a quick 5-minute natter. What a pair of lovely, genuine and approachable guys who as brothers share a burning desire to be the best they can be with an absolute focus on perfecting their production skills. With the recognition they are already getting and their creative vision technically developing the only way is up. I asked them which track they felt had the best reaction of the night and Craig said, “a track called Flamingo by a guy from Birmingham called Tommy Vercetti. We played it as our second to last track so kind of built towards it, it’s got a nice big groovy bassline and lots of uplifting piano in it.”

After being on the scene since 2011 they have played at some of the City’s past and present dedicated dance clubs including Carey’s, Rehab Warehouse and Kasbah. The brothers agree that Coventry needs change and feel that apart from the legendary Ruins Cathedral events and occasional good nights such as Ghost Town, nothing seems to have any staying power.

Olli Ryder and Luke Welsh with their headline slot of 1.30-3.00 did not disappoint. With residencies at Warehouse Project and Sankey’s in their back pockets, their prominence on Mvnta’s roster immediately exuded the promise of quality music. Their presence on the house and techno scene is spreading fast with bookings sharing nights with worldwide successes including Hot Since 82, Richy Ahmed and Seth Troxler. Their deep, driven basslines with layers of rattling percussion brought each track to life and their fearless journeying through the bass, build ups and drops resulted in non-stop dancing. Mvnta snapped up these go-getters after spotting them headlining at Nghtwrk’s, Wrexham gig.

DJs Josh Dunn b2b with Liam Craig (Mvnta residents) and the closing set with Matt Alridge continued to deliver an array of bouncing bass beats until disappointingly the lights came up earlier than expected and the night closed at 4am instead of 5am.

Why? It’s a big venue with a vast dancefloor and I would have loved to have seen it busier. We know to create a cult following a night needs time to collate a dedicated crowd, build a social media presence and organically develop through word of mouth. However, new enterprises need financial backing and venues have to see a return on investment in ticket and drink sales in order to keep supporting and allowing event progression. But Rome wasn’t built in a day and to reiterate, cult following nights need time to gain momentum!

Mvnta are without a doubt unique and ahead of their times in a City with perceived rocky clubbing foundations. These guys are about championing up and coming DJs and spotting talent that delivers a differentiated house tech approach, setting themselves apart from big fee headliners capturing the masses. Their market is young, eager with a desire to be educated by cutting edge house and techno who are not interested in propping up the bar or bobbing around the edge of the dancefloor without any understanding of what they are listening to. Mvnta’s challenge is not to pull in numbers with commercial trends, they want to stay true to their underground roots. I can’t help but wonder after Carey’s and Rehab Warehouse closed down whether this crowd has moved on with the younger ones heading to the thriving scene in Birmingham or simply lost in the City’s mass of popular culture? Open to debate.

But are these guys put off by these challenges? Fuck no! It was refreshing to see a haven of clubbers immersed in the music instead of a sea of mobile phones allowing technology to film an experience that robs you of the intimacy music was designed to create.

When I asked Tom, Mvnta’s co-creator, how he felt the event went he said, “Few bumps on the way but nonetheless was an incredible night with the Warehouse Project boys and residents. Start to finish, the music was on point and the vibe was on point. Onwards and upwards from here.”

Agreed.

In my eyes this is where we really need to consider the Coventry’ house and techno scene collaboratively not just competitively. A thriving scene opens opportunities for different promoters, DJs, genres of dance music and a range in demographics. If Coventry can reclaim a reputation for a quality house and techno scene, people will potentially travel from surrounding towns and cities. Birmingham is our biggest competitor but we’re a big City – let’s try and determinedly grab a small piece of the pie.

I would love to see Coventry’s key music influencers get behind Mvnta and their underground movement in it’s exciting, conceptual stage. Let’s put competition aside for one moment and strip it back to what it’s all about, bringing fuckin’ great music back to the City.

And I shall finish on one of my favourite quotes from the world’s most iconic and inspirational DJ, Carl Cox and I feel this is relevant to any new promoter, DJ or producer…

“Your favourite artist was once a local artist. Don’t wait until they blow up to start supporting.”

Mvnta’s next event: Saturday 20th January
Line-up: tbc

Check out Coventry’s Craig and Grant Gordon Beatport selection of groovy, minimal and low-slung tech house tracks.
https://www.beatport.com/artist/craig-and-grant-gordon/508034

Written by Fliss Baker. Photography by Adam Goss.

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